In partnership with NASA’s Ames Research Center, Swift Engineering has developed an affordable alternative to satellites. The company created a high-altitude, long-standing autonomous aircraft.
The solar powered air vehicle weighs just over 80 kg and can safely transport up to 7 kg. The creation can be used for operations in the upper atmosphere, such as commercial and military surveillance, monitoring, communication and security applications.
“We have developed an economical propulsion power system that can withstand severe temperatures, radiation and stratospheric conditions, providing and storing enough energy to allow long-haul flights,” said Andrew Streett, vice president of technology at Swift Engineering.
At the beginning of this month, the company completed the first test flight of the technology. With that, it was possible to make sure that the aircraft meets all safety and design requirements. So far, the technology has already received two NASA certificates. They, together with the FAA Certificate of Authorization (Federal Aviation Administration), mean that the vehicle can fly in commercial airspace.
“Applications of this technology will lead to a new era of data acceleration. Swift is able to offer what no other company in the industry can offer to the United States market,” said Rick Heise, Swift’s president and CEO.
While companies like Swift Engineering are looking for alternatives, companies like Amazon receive permission from the United States Federal Communications Commission to launch 3,236 satellites in space. With this, the company can start implementing the Kuiper project, designed to provide internet access to regions without telecommunication infrastructure.
“Lately, we’ve heard so many stories about people who can’t work or study because they don’t have quality internet at home,” said Dave Limp, the company’s vice president. “There are still many places where broadband access is weak or simply does not exist. Kuiper changes that.”
The approval had been awaited since July 2019, and was unanimous among the members of the Commission. However, certain conditions have been established: to maintain authorization, the Kuiper must have at least 50% of its capacity operating by July 30, 2026, and 100% by 2029.